Sunday, September 23, 2012

Come Fly with Me

This has certainly turned out to be a television-nostalgia-focused week. In addition to my posts about prime-time series introductions, I must note that it was 50 years ago today that the futuristic animated sitcom The Jetsons debuted on ABC-TV.

To a certain extent, the Space Age world that George Jetson and his small family inhabited--perched at nose-bleed heights above any sort of land in the year 2062, in aerodynamically designed buildings that looked like nothing so much as Seattle’s iconic Space Needle--was a nightmare. The numerous machines that were so integral to the lives of humans kept breaking down, and even that far-flung future seemed plagued by the same sorts of social and economic issues familiar to the early ’60s.

Yet, that was really the series’ point: that no matter how technologically advanced the world might become, it would still likely be hampered by entropy, human failure, and the psychological limitations of tradition. Whether children of the Kennedy era understood all of the nuances of The Jetsons wasn’t for certain; they probably did not. Surely, the social commentary passed over their noggins. But then, The Jetsons, like The Flintstones, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and other cartoons of the time wasn’t meant exclusively for prepubescents. In fact, this program debuted during television’s prime-time evening schedule, when both adults and children would be watching.

The Jetsons, a Hanna-Barbera production, had an original run of 24 episodes; another 41 were created for syndication in the mid-1980s. An 82-minute theatrical release, Jetsons: The Movie, came out in 1990 (though I never saw it), and there’s still talk of developing a live-action film version of The Jetsons. All of which demonstrates the appeal of the future, even if it’s a pretty laughable place and--except maybe for the flying cars and undependably servile robots--isn’t so very different from the world around us today.

READ MORE:50 Years of the Jetsons: Why the Show Still Matters,” by Matt Novak (Paleofuture); “Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah,” by James Lileks (Star Tribune); “Meet the Jetsons,” by Bob Sassone.

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